We talked to Nothing More, the Grammy-nominated band nobody’s heard of

How did this four-man outfit from San Antonio get nominated for more Grammys than Foo Fighters, Metallica, and Chris Cornell?

If you want a Grammy nomination, your best shot is to either be a veteran (see: Bob Dylan), or be so popular at the moment that your music is inescapable (see: Cardi B). But those guidelines don’t seem to apply to Nothing More.

In fact, nobody seems to know who they are.

Despite that, the four-man hard rock outfit from San Antonio, TX managed to snag nominations in all three Rock categories – putting them ahead of fellow 2017 nominees Foo Fighters, Metallica, and Chris Cornell.

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They ended up going home empty-handed, but for a brief moment, they caught the music press completely off guard. In fact, when VICE News Tonight went to visit the band in their hometown just before the Grammys, they seemed a little surprised that we wanted to interview them.

Watch our full interview below:

When this year’s nominations were announced, even a lot of rock fans were left scratching their heads. Teamrock.com ran an article entitled “Who the fuck are Nothing More”, which lavished praise on the band while acknowledging that a lot of their readers probably weren’t familiar with them. The Outline was a lot harsher, noting that Nothing More had almost nothing in their Wikipedia entry (someone has apparently noticed this, and the entry has since filled out a bit), and calling Nothing More’s triple nomination evidence that the Grammys are out of touch with the current rock landscape.

But that’s sort of the point. The Grammys aren’t a popularity contest. Record sales and pop culture appearances theoretically have nothing to do with a band’s Grammy worthiness.

Instead, the voting body are all music industry professionals, who are supposed to judge music purely on artistic merit. There’s probably a comparison to be made here to the Electoral College, in that the winner is decided, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, by those “most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” (Whether you trust a small group of insiders to be “most capable” of judging is up to you.)

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A lot of credit for NoMo’s nomination sweep should go to Allen Kovac, head of Nothing More’s label. He’s an industry veteran who has managed the success of stars like Blondie, Meatloaf, and the Bee Gees. His track record is nearly impeccable, and he is proud of the fact that he was able to use his reputation during the band’s Grammy campaign, pushing music industry insiders to notice his band when Rolling Stone and Pitchfork wouldn’t give them the time of day.

But, he says, he wouldn’t have put his weight behind them if he didn’t believe in the music.

Which brings us to the most difficult point in the discussion about this year's rock Grammys. Theoretically, a little-known band getting a shot at a behemoth like Metallica should be a good thing, because it shakes things up, and shows that the Grammy voters are willing to look past the brand names and reward new talent.

Criticisms of Nothing More’s music or aesthetic also feel a bit unfair. If their music feels dated, it’s probably because rock in general has struggled to remain relevant to a youth audience. Mainstream rock radio is increasingly conservative, and playlists seem to change only at a glacial pace, if ever, which leaves little room for new acts. This makes for strange situations, such as Nothing More cranking out tons of almost cloyingly radio-friendly songs, but getting no spins on their own hometown rock station.

This all seems to point to rock music being in the middle of a long identity crisis. If mainstream music publications aren’t covering a band, and hardly anyone has heard of them, but music professionals love it, who’s even to say what good rock music even is?